April 2017 Issue of Wines & Vines

Replicating the Barrel with New Alternatives

Suppliers expand range of shapes and sizes of alternatives and offer new extracts

by Andrew Adams

As the range in sizes and shapes of barrel alternatives has expanded in recent years, the oak products also have improved in general quality. Suppliers have invested in better toasting techniques as well as research to understand how the extraction process with alternatives differs from that with barrels.

This also has led to the creation of certain products with specific applications to help winemakers add a more precise amount of oak at just the right time. Wines & Vines contacted suppliers of oak barrel alternatives to learn about the latest products that give wine the aromas and structure of oak without having to spend time in barrel.

Oak powders and extracts
In developing new additions for its tr?/tan line of tannin products, Oak Solutions Group created a new, proprietary process to take its oak chips and turn them into a liquid extract that provides the same sensory and tannin impact as chips. The two new products, Aquadolce and Aquatexture, are based on a blend of ellagitannin and gallotannin compounds that the supplier says retain the “aromatic freshness and potency” of wood.

Technical sales engineer Glenn Jeffries said the company’s new extraction process preserves the all-important wood aromas. “We wanted to provide a product that primarily preserved those aromatic components—the sensory profiles of chips,” he said. “These are completely, 100% oak-derived products.”

The new extracts also are produced in a manner that doesn’t compromise the oak tannin compounds, he said, making them integrate quickly and seamlessly into wine. The liquid formulation also enables winemakers to make oak additions that provide a near-instant oak impact. “The idea is to give winemakers decision-making tools as close to bottling as possible,” he said.

Aquatexture is designed to help balance fruit and structure in wines, while Aquadolce “immediately lifts the aromatic character of wine.” The products comply with the International Oenological Codex and are water soluble. Oak Solutions Group can provide test kits, and product volumes range from small doses for perking up neutral barrels to treating large-capacity storage tanks.

Earlier this year, Tonelería Nacional added PureOak to its line of barrel-alternative products. The powder is derived from convection-toasted staves that are subjected to a water extraction process that the supplier claims retains all the major aromatics. PureOak is available in 500-gram bags and is intended as a finishing product.

Pickering Winery Supply offers finishing powders and small chips produced with French oak by the Australian supplier SuberOak. The company also produces liquid oak tannins from French and American oak.

Chips and blocks 
Pronektar, the alternatives division of Tonnellerie Radoux, introduced a new block that is cut from the company’s 17 mm-thick Extreme staves, which are thicker than most other tank staves. “It’s a more user-friendly way to use the 17 mm stave because it doesn’t take as much time to extract,” Pronektar sales manager Steve Burch said.

The blocks also offer some complexity in the extraction process because they provide sweeter flavors from the exterior, toasted surface and also expose the wine to the interior areas of the stave that were not toasted. Burch said the infusion bags only need three to four months of total extraction time and have been used successfully in white wine fermentations. 

He said he’s also been offering clients what Radoux is calling its “Nektar ID” samples, which are produced by steeping a pack of staves in a proportioned amount of wine to produce a concentrated oak solution.

Rather than waiting weeks to see what a small sample pack of alternatives can do in a 750 ml bottle of wine, Burch said he can sit down with a winemaker and run some quick blending trials with the liquid and see what the effects could be almost instant. “It’s just a way for us to help our customers understand our product and get them to a decision faster,” he said. “Lots of winemakers do this; a lot of wineries make ‘oak tea’ or an oak concentrate and use that to blend their wines.”

Seguin Moreau has changed the format of its Oenofirst and Oenofinisher logs, which are produced with a blend of French and American oak chips compressed together. The cooper is reducing the logs in size from 4.4 pounds to 1.65-pound bricks. “It allows winemakers to use smaller increments on small lots,” said oak alternatives sales manager Marion Ghiringhelli.

The company also is expanding the range of the products with new profiles for short contact times of one to two weeks at 1-2 g/L dosage rates that include Toast Booster, Vanille and Spirit Booster for spirits.

Fine Northern Oak, which is owned by Seguin Moreau, added two new toasts to its line of American oak chips: medium toast and intense. The medium toast chip offers structure and volume with notes of fruit, vanilla and spice, and the intense chips bring ripe fruit, spices and a full mouthfeel.

Seguin Moreau is part of the French company Oeneo Group, owner of the consulting and winemaking technology firm Vivelys, which also sells chips under the Boisé brand. The company sells a wide range of French oak chips and has now assembled two pre-packaged blends to make using the chips easier for winemakers.

Boisé’s “Y” blend is designed to help wines “with little fat or volume on the mid-palate” by adding some sweetness and aromas of ripe fruit. The “T” blend is for wines that have the potential for long-term aging “but lack power and balance on the palate.” In addition to boosting volume and structure, the supplier claims the “T” blend will also extend the profile of wine while enhancing aromas.

Inserts and staves
Quercus Concepts introduced a new stave called Eco Impact that it says offers more extractive surface in the same area of a traditional fan pack. The staves have a grooved surface on both sides. According to the supplier, the new patent-pending design offers more oak impact, and the staves are more economical and “green” than traditional staves. The Eco Impact staves are available in Hungarian, French and American oak with a variety of toasts.

Alicia McBride, president and general manager of Innerstave, said the company has added new flavor profiles, called Revere Oak, for its French oak barrel inserts and fan staves. The new flavors come from extra seasoning time (36 months) and a new toasting regime creating new flavors and better integration. “In addition to the specialty toasting, we’re having our flavors become more barrel-like as far as the integration is concerned,” she said.

The “FM” profile offers “vanilla, caramel and baker’s spice with elegant tannins,” while “FP” adds “robust vanilla, butterscotch, dark chocolate and a creamy mouthfeel,” and FPP is marked by “dark chocolate, dark-roast coffee, slight smoky bacon and smooth lingering tannins.”

Oak Solutions Group touts its new Cuvee 4 and Cuvee 5 staves as producing barrel-like extraction in a tank. The staves are toasted on one side with a unique infrared toast and left untoasted on the other side. By exposing the wine to both toasted and untoasted wood, international sales director Kyle Sullivan said it creates a similar dynamic in the tank to what occurs in the barrel when wine pushes past the depth of the toast into the barrel’s interior surface. “We are toasting one side with a pretty deep toast and getting a pretty deep transformation of compounds and leaving the other side virtually untoasted,” he said. “We’re seeing more elegant flavors with much better integration.”

Cuvee 4 staves provide more red, dark fruit flavors with a touch of vanilla and spice and are similar to a new American oak barrel. Cuvee 5 is more like a new French oak barrel and accentuates aromas while adding spice and toast plus tannic structure. Extraction time takes about four to six months.

The new XL Stave by Nadalie Oak Add Ins are about 3 feet long and best suited for longer tank aging of up to 18 months. The staves come in bundles of 10 and are made with 24-month-aged French oak. A unique toast helps accentuate aromatics with an aromatic finish and provide better integration overall.

Nadalie also has expanded its range of toasts for its alternatives that are suited for white wines. The “spicy” and “fruity” toasts are most similar to the cooper’s Perle Blanche barrel. Director of sales Vincent Nadalie said for the fruity toast the alternatives are pulled out of the oak-fired toasting oven, then sprayed with water to release smoky notes and put back in to dry. The spicy toast is similar but at higher temperatures. Mineral and blond toasts are closest to the barrels by Marsannay, which is owned by Nadalie.

Many of the latest barrel alternative products were released during this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Chik Brenneman, faculty winemaker at the University of California, Davis, led a tour highlighting innovations in oak barrel alternatives and stopped at several of the tradeshow booths of suppliers.

He said he was struck by the diversity of products on the market, but with range of options comes an even greater need to conduct extensive trials to ensure each type of alternative product provides the desired effect on a particular wine. “They all have really good applications, and I know a lot of winemakers using them to great success,” he said. “They’re getting more diverse but are very specific in how the product can be used. In that regard, they may or may not work for a particular wine.”


Print this page   PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION   »
E-mail this article   E-MAIL THIS ARTICLE   »
Currently no comments posted for this article.